The First Tuesday in Novemeber aka The Melbourne Cup.
- By Kazza K
This Tuesday, November 6th, is the 152nd running of the Melbourne Cup. A big event in Australia. If you don't come form Australia you more than likely could be scratching your head and asking what the hell is the Melbourne Cup? Well let me tell you. The Melbourne Cup is a horse race. It is always held on the first Tuesday in November and it is a handicap, if you understand horse racing a handicap is not viewed in the same esteem as, say a WFA, or weight for age race. WFA are the races that attract, and only allow in, the best horses in the land, the class fields. Today, Saturday, we had the running of The McKinnon Stakes which is a WFA and attracts a top class field. We also had the Victoria Derby, picked the winner, go me! Horse racing is a big deal in Australia. We race 7 days a week and have approximately 6 cable channels dedicated to racing. We not only cover races in Australia but we have horse racing beamed in from around the globe. We're very optimistic, there's always a race running somewhere. As a nation we would bet on two flies crawling up a wall. Don't get me wrong, not everyone in Australia bets on horses, or is interested in them, but we are a nation of keen punters. Two-up on Anzac Days, poker machines, greyhounds, harness racing, the football - first/last try, pick the margins....
The reason I wanted to talk about the Melbourne Cup is it's a big deal to me. I love it. I have bred and raced horses. I would love to have a Melbourne Cup runner, they don't have to win it. A handicap it may be, but it is an extremely rich one. Horses now come from all over the world to participate. The visiting trainers and owners are always stunned, blown away really, by our enthusiasm towards a horse race. This year the prizemoney is six point two million Australian Dollars, not bad for just over three minutes. I simplify as there are varying conditions and balloting that must be met by a horse to get a saddle and silks for the race, and the horse has to be tough.There are 24 runners, there are no reserves, and it is run over 3200 metres. For us, a country that adores and worships the sprinter, this is a definite distance race; don't laugh if you live in Europe where quite a few horses are just getting going at 3200 metres.
There is so much more to the Melbourne Cup than just a race. There is the Spring Carnival in general which attracts talent such as Adam Lambert to sing, and festivites, including a parade of past winners though Melbourne's business district, and lots of parties. However, on Cup day the nation really kicks into gear. In Melbourne there is a public holdiay, yep, we have a day off for a horse race. People dress up, and not just in a classy way, people wear all manner of outrageous costumes and party hard. Not everyone can get into Flemington race course, and not everyone lives in Victoria, so there are parties in the car park at Flemington, other race tracks, pubs, clubs, offices. The nation is just festive in general. Not only that, the whole nation stops to watch the race, including businesses. I kid you not. Pretty much everyone has a bet, even those that don't like horse racing or are just not interested ordinarily. We have office sweeps, newsagents sweeps, TAB sweeps, where you pay a certain amount of money and are randomly allocated a horse. I like the way we get so invested in 24 horses running 3200 metres in just over 3 minutes. I love the nature of our country and the spirit that was originally brought over by the convicts, English, Irish, Scottish, and then further generations that grew here or moved to join us in our ways; which includes out Melbourne Cup nation-stopping horse race. You know how a lot of people say "only in America?" Well, only in Australia could you have such fervour over a horse race, which stops a nation. I love it and wouldn't wish to be anywhere else on the first Tuesday in November. When we had a horse running in the 1930's, Phar Lap, we were besotted with him. He travelled to America, a big deal then, and won. Unfortunately he died of colic soon after and ALL our newpapers had the heading "He's Dead." Every Australian knew who "He" was. And, yes, Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup.
|The mighty Phar Lap|
|The Melbourne Cup|